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24 September 2014
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Devon's links with the literary greats
Lorna Doone Valley
"Lorna Doone Valley" on Exmoor
A Literary Tour of Devon
by
Paul Wreyford


Continue exploring Devon's literary connections down the centuries from Charles Dickens to Agatha Christie.
SEE ALSO
More Devon book reviews

Relax and let us read you a short story by a budding local author

Agatha Christie

Samuel Coleridge

Devon's famous people
FACTS

Dartmoor born Charles Kingsley wrote Westward Ho! - and a resort on the North Devon coast was later named after the novel.

Dame Agatha Christie was born in Barton Road, Torquay, in 1890.

The poet and short story writer Elizabeth Barrett Browning was sent to Torquay on her doctor's advice and stayed for around three years.
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East Devon...
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Coleridge, who was one of the country's leading Romantic poets, was born at the vicarage of Ottery St Mary in 1772.

He was the 13th child of the Rev John Coleridge, and his early years were spent in East Devon. A plaque in honour of the poet can be found on the churchyard wall.

Although it is believed his childhood was not entirely happy, he nonetheless looked back on it fondly in many of his poems.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In Frost at Midnight, the bells of Ottery St Mary are remembered affectionately, and the poem is a romanticised version of his early years.

As a boy, he loved the countryside and often walked along the River Otter. Coleridge is best remembered for his work, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Charles Dickens
Devon played quite an important part in the life of a young Charles Dickens, and some of the people he encountered here were later the basis of some of his quirky characters. The link with Devon is most concentrated in Exeter.

His parents lived in Mile End Cottage in Alphington for four years from 1839. The opening chapters in Nicholas Nickleby were written at the cottage.

Dickens described Exeter area as "the most beautiful in this most beautiful of English counties." It was in the 15th century Turk's Head in the city centre, that he spotted an overweight boot boy - the inspiration for The Fat Boy in the Pickwick Papers.

Later, he based the sly Pecksniff, from Martin Chuzzlewit, on a resident in Topsham.

Thomas Hardy
Dorset's Thomas Hardy used Exeter in four of his novels, only he gave it the name of Exonbury. The city is featured in The Trumpet Major, Jude the Obscure, A Pair of Blue Eyes and The Woodlanders. Hardy visited Topsham, where his close friend, Tryphena Sparks, is buried.

Jane Austen
Happy memories of a holiday in the area prompted Jane Austen to set her first novel in the county. Sense and Sensibility, written in 1811, was set in the village of Upton Pyne - around four miles from Exeter. The marriage of Elinor Dashwood and Edward Ferrars was set in the village church. Jane Austen also loved nearby Dawlish, which also gets a mention in Sense and Sensibility.

RF Delderfield
Novelist RF Delderfield wrote many much loved books - including To Serve Them All My Days, A Horseman Riding By, and God is an Englishman. He was also the inspiration behind the first Carry On film, Carry On Sergeant. RF (Ronald Frederick) Delderfield was born in London in 1912, but his family moved to East Devon when he was 18. He continued to live in Exmouth and surrounding area. He died of cancer at his home
in Sidmouth in 1972, aged 60.

West Devon...
Thomas Hardy

Plymouth Hoe
Plymouth Hoe, where Hardy sat and read the first instalment of the newly published "Far From the Madding Crowd"

Hardy has connections right across the South West - including Plymouth, which was the home of his first wife, Emma.

And, it was while passing through the city, at Plymouth Railway Station - on New Year's Eve 1873 - that he noticed a billboard advertising the Cornhill Magazine and its first instalment of Far From the Madding Crowd.

He bought a copy, and walked to Plymouth Hoe to read the opening of his greatest novel. That was a happy memory from the city.

But Plymouth also brought him sadness. His wife's untimely death in 1912 prompted him to go on a pilgrimage of the city, to trace the places where she was brought up. He poured out his grief in a number of his poems.

Sabine Baring-Gould

The novelist and hymn-writer lived at Lewtrenchard, near Okehampton, for 43 years. He is best known for the hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers, and also wrote the song about Widecombe Fair. He was still writing right up to his death at the age of 89 in 1924. His body is buried in the churchyard at the village.

Best of the Rest...
Best known as the author of Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe fell in love with Plymouth. He came to the city on his Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain.

This is by no means a full listing, but it gives you an idea of the role Devon has played in England's literary past.

The literary tour is based on a book by former Devon journalist, Paul Wreyford, who wrote "A Literary Tour of Devon." The book is published by Orchard Publications of Chudleigh, South Devon, price £4.95.


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